In Honor of Teddy Bears

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In Honor of Teddy Bears

Grace Bentley

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September 9th is National Teddy Bear Day.

On this day, we pay homage to a lifelong friend, one who has always been there to give chocolates on Valentine’s Day, or to assuage amidst a temper tantrum as a three year old.

And on this day, we also pay homage to a man who gave the teddy bear the name, but is not quite as well known for being soft and cuddly.

Theodore Roosevelt–called Teddy by some–the 26th president of the United States, was known for his strong sense of masculinity; an avid outdoorsman, he adopted a cowboy persona, as he treked through lands he later declared the National State Parks and opened his own ranch.

How did such a man become the inspiration for a fuzzy stuffed bear cub with eyes that melts heart, you ask? The story goes like this:

On mid-November hunt in the depths of a Mississippi forest, in 1902, the President of the United States was on a bear-hunting trip with several friends and the governor of Mississippi. However, while all his friends had managed to spot a bear, Roosevelt had not.

“Drawing the line in Mississippi.” Artist Clifford Barrymore pokes fun at the President’s unwillingness to shoot the bear. Image source courtesy Wikipedia.

“Drawing the line in Mississippi.” Artist Clifford Barrymore pokes fun at the President’s unwillingness to shoot the bear. Image source courtesy Wikipedia.

In order to ensure that the president himself was able to hunt a bear on a bear hunting trip in his honor, an assistant had hunting dogs track down an old black bear. When the bear was caught, he tied the bear to a tree, and called Roosevelt over, meaning for the President to shoot the bear.

However, Roosevelt refused to shoot the bear, recognizing the dishonesty and unsportsmanship-like qualities of the act. He ordered the bear released.

That would have been the end of it if political cartoonist Clifford Barrymore had not heard of the story and published a political cartoon depicting the incident two days later (pictured right).

One viewer of the cartoon was a candymaker named Morris Michtom, who was inspired by Barrymore’s cartoon of an adorable bearcub juxtaposed with the cowboy Roosevelt. He put two stuffed toy bears in his candy store window and sold them as Teddy’s bears.

The idea spread rapidly across the country, and lasted for years, even decades. The teddy bears, still sitting on our beds, can attest to that.